How Loud Are you REALLY going? - AVS Forum
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Old 03-27-2013, 01:59 PM - Thread Starter
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Hey guys, I thought this would be an interesting discussion as I have been researching a lot lately about how loud we really watch movies and listen to music.

In fact, the other day as I was watching an episode of "The Big Bang Theory" and "The Following" from my DVR I only listening in the high 60s to mid 70s range. I turn it up a bit louder when I am watching a movie and I would say(I have not measured this) it is probably in the 80db range..I plan on measuring how loud I am listening to this too.

Music I am usually in the middle between watching TV and a movie, however, I have been known to crank it higher when I am listening to one of my favorite songs.

Because of all this I got to thinking about how loud our speakers really need to go? I know the THX reference is 115db and I know some really like it to go even louder than that, but is it really needed?

So I was hoping you guys could help me with this by answering these questions and contributing anything further to this discussion...

1. What do you mainly use your system for?
2. Do you listen in a dedicated Home Theater or are you in a multi-purpose/family/living room/great room?
3. How loud do you tend to listen to the different sources?
4. How efficient do you think our speakers need to be, aka, how loud do you think we NEED them to be and why?

I will also add that one of the main reasons I have been looking into this more is the fact that I am most interested in two very different speaker approaches. The first is the open baffle dipole from designers like Linkwitz and John K where the rear sound wave works to help control room interaction(of course it is much more complicated than that). The other is the Unity/Synergy/Econowave approach where the use of a horn is used to control directivity and are of much higher sensitivity on average compared to most OB designs.

I understand that these are very different designs but they both try to minimize the effects of the room on the sound which is the area I am most concerned with.

I look forward to hearing about your listening tastes and opinions

Trying to enjoy the simple things in life.

 

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Old 03-27-2013, 02:17 PM
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THX reference level is average 85 dB, with 20 dB headroom, although for a sub is 115dB at the listening position for peaks, 105 db peaks for the others.

"I realize that somebody playing free music isn't as commercial as a hamburger stand. But is it because you can eat a hamburger and hold it in your hand and you can't do that with music? Is it too free to control?" - Don Van Vliet (aka Captain Beefheart) discussing commercial success in the music biz


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Old 03-27-2013, 04:16 PM
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1. What do you mainly use your system for? Everything - TV, music, movies, Netflix, Youtube, etc. etc. etc.
2. Do you listen in a dedicated Home Theater or are you in a multi-purpose/family/living room/great room? Living room
3. How loud do you tend to listen to the different sources? TV -35 to -20 depending on content, Blu ray -15 to -5 depending on mood, Music -35 to 0db depending on mood
4. How efficient do you think our speakers need to be, aka, how loud do you think we NEED them to be and why? As loud as you like to listen biggrin.gif

Quote:
In fact, the other day as I was watching an episode of "The Big Bang Theory" and "The Following" from my DVR I only listening in the high 60s to mid 70s range. I turn it up a bit louder when I am watching a movie and I would say(I have not measured this) it is probably in the 80db range..I plan on measuring how loud I am listening to this too.

You need to be using the db volume scale if you want any sort of proper comparisons in this thread. wink.gif

Also, guessing at what db level you are listening at (i.e. "probably in the 80db range") tells us absolutely nothing.

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Old 03-27-2013, 04:41 PM - Thread Starter
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Yea, I plan on measuring it, but when I turn of the volume on the receiver, if it any indication goes from -35 to -25 for movies.

Trying to enjoy the simple things in life.

 

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Old 03-27-2013, 04:57 PM
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I just recently looked into how the test tones relate to reference level in my room. I use an Oppo BluRay with analogue outputs into an older Arcam AV9 processor so I can alter the master volume on the AV9 while the test tones are playing from the Oppo. I set the levels up so that 0db (marked as THX ref on the AV9's display) equals 85dB at my listening position with the test tones playing. I tend to listen just a bit down from reference at about -5 to -8db but even this equates to peaks of up to 97dB (in theory) though I've held the SPL meter during some test scenes (-5dB MV) and it's gone well over 100dB so I'm not sure of it's absolute accuracy. I'm upgrading my sub soon for one that can comfortably hit reference levels as my existing 12" ported/300 watt sub is the weak link.

To answer the OP:

1. I use my processor and power amps for all TV listening, PVR and BluRay, plus CD/SACD/DVD-Audio, in other words everthing.
2. Living room (detached house so no direct neighbours to disturb).
3. TV viewing at -25/20dB, music -25 to -10dB depending on if it's background or 'serious' listening, BluRays (when using my projector) -8/5dB or 0dB if it's a demo. wink.gif
4. Mine are pretty efficient I believe, but have them bi amped with two pairs of power amps to make sure.

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Old 03-27-2013, 05:02 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Kimeran View Post

Yea, I plan on measuring it, but when I turn of the volume on the receiver, if it any indication goes from -35 to -25 for movies.

Ummm...what?

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Old 03-28-2013, 01:58 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Kimeran View Post

1. What do you mainly use your system for?
Just about everything; casual TV including recorded & timeshifted, background music, DVD & Blu-ray movies, multichannel music (DVD, dtsCD), CD stereo (+ subs). Favourite is live concerts on DVD & Blu-ray.

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Originally Posted by Kimeran View Post

2. Do you listen in a dedicated Home Theater or are you in a multi-purpose/family/living room/great room?
Smallish living room (4.8 X 3.6 X 2.4m) with large openings on two sides. No accoustic treatments but fully carpeted with large absorbant couches and lots of cushions. Nearest neighbours are 40m away. smile.gif

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Originally Posted by Kimeran View Post

3. How loud do you tend to listen to the different sources?
Master volume (relative to reference): TV and background music @ -35 to -25dB (Aud Dyn Vol = Light); movies @ -20 to -15dB (with wife) or -12 to -5dB (without); music @ -15 to -7dB depending on quality of content; concert Blu-rays @ -10 to -5dB. My volume preferences, especially for music, are limited by what my speakers can produce without that "jaw clenching", metallic distortion. If I had larger, more capable speakers, and a few discrete acoustic treatments, I'd crank it 3 to 5db louder at "playtime". biggrin.gif

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Originally Posted by Kimeran View Post

4. How efficient do you think our speakers need to be, aka, how loud do you think we NEED them to be and why?
I really like the idea of high sensitivity speakers, so I'll say as sensitive as possible, as long as they still sound good. How about a genuine 96 - 100dB/W/m? I'm prepared to trade off (unused) low end extension to achieve this... that's what subs are for aren't they? The attraction for me is me is very little power is required to drive them to reference levels. Like in this video. No big amps required! If that can be combined with good power handling, audible distortion and power compression should be almost non-existant at all but extreme SPL's. [IIRC, Tom Danley reckons that audible distortion can set in at 1/10th (or 1/8th?) of the speakers power handling figure... I could be wrong though.] So for me it's not about being able play insanely loud, but about the concept of remaining clean and composed at reference level and not needing mega amps to get there. There's some interesting discussion in this excellent thread: http://www.avsforum.com/t/1387083/list-of-reference-level-high-sensitivity-spl-speakers

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Originally Posted by Kimeran View Post

I will also add that one of the main reasons I have been looking into this more is the fact that I am most interested in two very different speaker approaches. The first is the open baffle dipole from designers like Linkwitz and John K where the rear sound wave works to help control room interaction(of course it is much more complicated than that). The other is the Unity/Synergy/Econowave approach where the use of a horn is used to control directivity and are of much higher sensitivity on average compared to most OB designs.
As you could guess from above, I like the second approach. You don't seem to be looking for particular speaker brand recommendations, but you might be interested in checking out the sensitivity/directivity implementation of: JTR (Noesis), Gedlee and Pi Speakers.
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Old 03-28-2013, 08:46 AM - Thread Starter
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Ummm...what?

Sorry, It was a long day yesterday at work and my brain had just about had it when I typed that.

I mean to say, I plan to measure how loud I watch movies at with my UMIK-1. That said, when compared to watching regular television, I turn up the volume on my receiver from -35 to -25 or sometimes -15 depending on the film since some tend to be rather quiet.

GIEGEAR:

I agree that sensitive speakers have some virtues that I find attractive like you listed. If I take such an approach it would be because I would need "flea amps" to drive them to painfully high levels. One thing that I have read, like what you mentioned above, is the fact that after only a few watts, every time you double the power, you are doubling the distortion as well...this of course is much more complicated than that like everything in audio but was explained to me by someone who was laying things out in simpler, "rule of thumb" type terms. He presented graphs to me to demonstrate his point so I tend to believe him.

I also like that with the horn systems the room placement is not as critical as it is with OB designs, however, an OB speaker has "constant directivity"(in quotes because there are many arguments that it is not a CD design) down to lower frequencies than a econowave/gedlee design. Which to me would mean that the audio experience would be more "even" throughout the entire room. However, with proper toe in with something like the gedlee abbey, you will get a similar effect.

Like in everything in this hobby, every plus has an accompanies minus....Being as new to this hobby as I am, I like to research, read forums, and hear peoples opinions about different approaches and what they like about each. There is no single answer, just the one that works for the person who owns and listens to his speakers on a regular basis.

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Old 03-28-2013, 09:01 AM
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Originally Posted by Kimeran View Post

Yea, I plan on measuring it, but when I turn of the volume on the receiver, if it any indication goes from -35 to -25 for movies.

AVR settings are meaningless because their consequence is dependent on the program source, the speakers and the room.

The only reasonable measure of loudness is SPL meter readings.
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Old 03-28-2013, 12:19 PM - Thread Starter
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Originally Posted by arnyk View Post

AVR settings are meaningless because their consequence is dependent on the program source, the speakers and the room.

The only reasonable measure of loudness is SPL meter readings.

I agree

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Old 03-29-2013, 11:13 AM
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Originally Posted by lovinthehd View Post

THX reference level is average 85 dB, with 20 dB headroom, although for a sub is 115dB at the listening position for peaks, 105 db peaks for the others.

Yup, thats what i ended up with. A nice easy 85db with the ability to handle the dynamic peaks of some of the demanding action movies!
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Old 03-29-2013, 11:27 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Kimeran View Post


1. What do you mainly use your system for?
2. Do you listen in a dedicated Home Theater or are you in a multi-purpose/family/living room/great room?
3. How loud do you tend to listen to the different sources?
4. How efficient do you think our speakers need to be, aka, how loud do you think we NEED them to be and why?

1. Audio only
2. Multi-purpose listening room/living room. 2 ch audio only
3. I have only one source, CD. My listening level varies, but 100db ave, 110db peaks is about the limits of my system.
4. There are times ive contemplated getting more power (my speakers can handle more than I have), but have deterred myself from it thinking it would bring only marginal enhanced satisfaction and probably premature hearing loss. I once read somewhere that 83db ave is the loudest sustained loudness level you can have with zero possibility of hearing damage. I suppose that factors to 90-93db peaks. Thats a little low for me. But I generally only listen very loud for 15-20 minutes at a time. Id say typically, I listen in the 88-93db ave range (+10db for peaks).

Obviously, room size, listening distance from your speakers and loudness preferences determine how loud your speakers need to go. In small-medium sized rooms, low and mid efficiency (85-88db/1w/1m) with a 50w or 100w amp gets the job done for most people. Large rooms and demanding loudness levels usually mandate more efficient speakers (90+db/1w/1m) and more juice (200w/ch and more).

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Old 03-29-2013, 11:30 AM
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Originally Posted by Alan P View Post

Ummm...what?
ya...what?

I'm new to the game...but on most of the recievers I've seen reference is set to ~82db, which on the receiver is 0.00db. If you're listening to movies at -25 I'd assume you were 25db under reference or 57db. Not accounting for room measurements.

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Old 03-29-2013, 11:49 AM
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Originally Posted by Conspiracy* View Post

ya...what?

I'm new to the game...but on most of the recievers I've seen reference is set to ~82db, which on the receiver is 0.00db. If you're listening to movies at -25 I'd assume you were 25db under reference or 57db. Not accounting for room measurements.

I was responding to a post that made no sense....don't know what you're getting at.

As stated in this thread, THX reference level is 85db, not 82db.

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Old 03-29-2013, 01:16 PM
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Just a reminder that reference level means nothing unless you know "compared to what?" If it's stated at 85 dB, the implication is that you're calibrating speakers with a test sound encoded at -20dBFS, which AFAIK is how mixing stages are, and commercial theaters are supposed to be, calibrated. FWIW, at least since five years ago or so, typical home theater receivers use a -30dBFS test sound (because the higher level scared some customers) so the correct calibration level is 75 dB. The two are exactly the same in the end, becuase 75+30 is the same as 85+20.

Although people say it all the time, IDK that THX reference is an "average," since film mixer types who come around here suggest that they do different things for different movies, and I'm sure we've all encountered a movie that seemed to have MUCH quieter dialog than we're used to (V for Vendetta leaps out to me.) Calibration lets everybody be on a level SPL playing field, but there's no requirement that any particular movie average 85 dB. WHich is why you can't calibrate with movie content
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Old 03-29-2013, 05:56 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Alan P View Post

I was responding to a post that made no sense....don't know what you're getting at.

As stated in this thread, THX reference level is 85db, not 82db.

Quoted you but was directed to the OP. My bad...

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Old 03-29-2013, 08:15 PM
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Usually in these type of threads discussing high spl distortion topic arises.

FWIW I listen @ -14db to -10db usually in our HT.

Now, check out these speakers for really loud and clear capability http://www.avsforum.com/t/1457166/s-e-o-s-r-mega-build


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Old 03-29-2013, 08:34 PM
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Originally Posted by mtbdudex View Post

Usually in these type of threads discussing high spl distortion topic arises.

FWIW I listen @ -14db to -10db usually in our HT.

Now, check out these speakers for really loud and clear capability http://www.avsforum.com/t/1457166/s-e-o-s-r-mega-build


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Not about the audio stuff but your damn signature....do you post about a cycling thing then "sent while riding my foofoo carbon xtr equipped stupid bike"? rolleyes.gif

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Old 03-30-2013, 06:43 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by lovinthehd View Post

Quote:
Originally Posted by mtbdudex View Post

Usually in these type of threads discussing high spl distortion topic arises.

FWIW I listen @ -14db to -10db usually in our HT.

Now, check out these speakers for really loud and clear capability http://www.avsforum.com/t/1457166/s-e-o-s-r-mega-build


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Not about the audio stuff but your damn signature....do you post about a cycling thing then "sent while riding my foofoo carbon xtr equipped stupid bike"? rolleyes.gif

Only when posting in my home state biking forum http://mmba.org/ smile.gif
Hmm sorry it hit you that way, I entered that into taptalk a while back and totally overlook it, although it shows when I post away from the desktop ..
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Old 03-30-2013, 11:30 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by mtbdudex View Post

Quote:
Originally Posted by lovinthehd View Post

Quote:
Originally Posted by mtbdudex View Post

Usually in these type of threads discussing high spl distortion topic arises.

FWIW I listen @ -14db to -10db usually in our HT.

Now, check out these speakers for really loud and clear capability http://www.avsforum.com/t/1457166/s-e-o-s-r-mega-build


Sent from my 32GB iPhone4 using Tapatalk

Not about the audio stuff but your damn signature....do you post about a cycling thing then "sent while riding my foofoo carbon xtr equipped stupid bike"? rolleyes.gif

Only when posting in my home state biking forum http://mmba.org/ smile.gif
Hmm sorry it hit you that way, I entered that into taptalk a while back and totally overlook it, although it shows when I post away from the desktop ..
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Just a pet peeve to always be reminded when someone sends from one of those damn things...rolleyes.gif

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Old 03-30-2013, 12:12 PM
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Anyway...back on topic:

I was listening at -10dB below reference last night and had the new Spiderman film on. There were some sharp 'gunshot' like sounds as my sub bottomed out due to some very low LFE. No indication that it was straining and the particular scene didn't even seem to warrant the effect, but the sub driver is damaged now (sounds gritty). I was planing to upgrade my sub anyway (ported 12"/300 watt RMS) but this has rushed the upgrade now. I had a few films to watch over Easter, but they sound a bit weedy without a sub (even though my fronts are spec'd to 40Hz).

Moral is to make sure you system can handle being pushed loud I suppose, though strange that I've had Skyfall on at full reference level with no issues previously. frown.gif

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Old 03-30-2013, 12:27 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Kelvin1965S View Post

Anyway...back on topic:

I was listening at -10dB below reference last night and had the new Spiderman film on. There were some sharp 'gunshot' like sounds as my sub bottomed out due to some very low LFE. No indication that it was straining and the particular scene didn't even seem to warrant the effect, but the sub driver is damaged now (sounds gritty). I was planing to upgrade my sub anyway (ported 12"/300 watt RMS) but this has rushed the upgrade now. I had a few films to watch over Easter, but they sound a bit weedy without a sub (even though my fronts are spec'd to 40Hz).

Moral is to make sure you system can handle being pushed loud I suppose, though strange that I've had Skyfall on at full reference level with no issues previously. frown.gif

Sent from my crappy old Dell laptop. wink.gif

When working with multiple amps / speakers driven by a single source, before going loud its recommended to see if each piece in the chain reaches its power limit at the same time. Usually one will get there before the other(s) and that is your threshold.

What it says on the master volume knob isnt a good gauge. -10db on the pre-amp could be +5db at the power amp. The other thing many overlook is dynamic headroom. Peaks can reach +10db over the average level (10 times the power level). So to keep everything below clipping level, 1/10 power is a good and safe average max output.

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Old 03-30-2013, 02:44 PM
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Anyway...back on topic:

I was listening at -10dB below reference last night and had the new Spiderman film on. There were some sharp 'gunshot' like sounds as my sub bottomed out due to some very low LFE. No indication that it was straining and the particular scene didn't even seem to warrant the effect, but the sub driver is damaged now (sounds gritty).

Not a well-designed sub, I fear. A well designed driver for a sub will run out of excursion due to limitations of its motor before there is any hard mechanical contact. What brand?
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Old 03-30-2013, 03:06 PM
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I've listened before at reference without bother, so it is also film/disc dependent as this happened at -10db down from reference. My SPL meter reads 75dB with test tones from my Oppo and the AV9's gain at -10dB so power amp gain is taken into account since I have to set up manually due to no auto set up. My separate biamped speakers have considerably more headroom than the sub it seems despite my settings being such that I thought the sub was within it's limits (especially at -10dB).

I agree it is down to the sub's design, but it's an older model and newer versions had a filter to roll off more sharply below port frequency to prevent this from happening. I'mgoing for a sealed sub next but one with a much heavier duty driver too with an amp that has a limiter function as added protection.

This is the current subwoofer (sold direct so they are usually considered good VFM since equivalent models from other makes tend to be around twice the price in the UK). I've had it for 5 years (second driver) and was planing to upgrade anyway, this has just sped the process up. frown.gif

http://www.bkelec.com/HiFi/Sub_Woofers/monolith-df.htm

I'm going for one of this company's subs but it's around 4 x the price so if it isn't a vast improvement when I have a demo then I'll be having a rethink. It's a living room set up so any big black boxes aren't acceptable (to me regardless of WAF) so M&K and SVS cylinders are a non starter for me. Luckily that a demo last weekend at least showed the smaller model to exceed the KK808(?) which costs more and (IMHO)wouldn't be acceptable anyway in appearance terms, but it makes a good benchmark.

Holding page for now:

http://www.theultimatesubwoofer.com/

Thread starts here:

http://www.avforums.com/forums/subwoofers-tactile-transducers/1744516-ultimate-subwoofers.html

Zooming: Been there, done that, bought the lens...
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Old 03-30-2013, 05:00 PM
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There is a great thread in the speakers forum, I suggest taking this conversation there, and many-many if not all of the points brought up or that will be brought up are discussed in clarity there.
http://www.avsforum.com/t/1387083/list-of-reference-level-high-sensitivity-spl-speakers
From that thread:
Quote:
Originally Posted by Eyleron View Post

Last Updated March 26, 2012

Why?

This is intended to be a reference list of speakers with higher sensitivity, capable of higher SPL, and more importantly yield great dynamics, which are some of the desirable traits for home theater speakers. I use "low distortion" as a term here because many people are experiencing clipped peaks and distortion without realizing it. They'd never think so, because they don't play near reference level. So this document can be helpful in showing what different speakers will output with what watts.


This is borne out of my own quest for such speakers, and there appears to be rising interest in this category. I often see a few makes and models thrown out as options in threads, but inconsistently, and the thread often dies with people wanting more.

What It Is

This is mainly an aggregate of manufacturers' own specs allowing one to compare speakers in the context of their output and the watts required for reference level at 12 feet, and how loud it'll get with the typical 100w receiver. It's more of an educational tool than a shopping tool. Hence, I've included many speaker that people have asked to be included, such as speakers that were known for high output but may be discontinued and difficult to acquire today. There are also "gray area" speakers that almost achieve reference level. There's another list of speakers that I had initially included for comparison sake, but are not reference level capable.


The list is also filtered through my editing and weighting in the scoring columns, and some specs have been corrected for comparison purposes or where reviews have consistently found the manufacturer data to be wrong or misleading.

What It's Not

This is not a definitive list, as every speaker cannot be included. I add them as I come across them or people recommend them.


This is not a definitive shopping tool. The pricing might sometimes be average new prices, or reported dealer prices, or MSRP. Your own shopping will likely find different prices.


It's not always perfectly accurate; just as professional publications print corrections every month, I too make copy-paste mistakes or misinterpret data. I try to ask where I have questions, and I try to add comments on individual cells to qualify the data (e.g. where the sensitivity was dropped 3dB to get from a reported in-room to anechoic).


This is not a list of speakers by quality. Maximum output and dynamic capability at higher output are only a couple attributes of speaker among many. And even those may be meaningless to many people, in the same way that an automobile's top speed has no bearing on one's car purchase if one will never drive it that fast, except as bragging rights. If you never listen louder than -15dBFS from reference level, then most speakers of middlin' efficiency and limited power handling will work fine, because you'll only send the speakers a few watts of power.

Reference Level?

The term is often mentioned as a benchmark of output. It's really just what it says, a reference level. It is not the "ideal level" or the "best level." Although this is a gray area, as supposedly many commercial theaters are supposed to be calibrated and capable to play at this level, and film soundtrack mastering is performed at this level.


Reference Level, 0dBFS (0dB Full Scale (digital), is the maximum level the soundtracks can be recorded at for any given channel. It equates to SPL peak output for each five or seven channels of 105dB and 115dB for the LFE channel at the listening position. The soundtrack will rarely reach this level, but it's a reference point. Even if people rarely play at this loud level, it's good to calibrate so that you know where your volume is at for comparison purposes. This is loud, but in a better-treated room with better equipment, it sounds more natural. The dynamic peaks are loud enough that it the sounds will affect you at a more instinctual level. It also ensures that the softest sounds are above the system's (which includes the room, HVAC, etc.) noise floor.


The requirements to reach reference level, or any volume, differ from speaker to speaker, amp to amp, room to room, and with different seating distances.


It's also a benchmark elsewhere, such as for THX certification.

Isn't that insanely loud?

Remember that the 105dB is for peaks, not average levels, which are 85dB. The peaks are brief, transient spikes, and they don't harm hearing.


In the real world:
  • the dishes clattering might be 90-ish decibels (1 meter)
  • a roaring passenger car might be 100dB (1 meter).
  • standing next to a grand piano 109dB.
  • a rock concert 111dB (40 feet away)
  • drum set (at moment of strike) 125dB


You can see it's not outlandish in an action movie to have brief peaks of sound of 100 or 105dB to simulate at a much lower level the sounds of the action.


The other issue is perception of loudness. Much of the time, when we say a theater system is "too loud" we at least partially mean, "It sounds bad!" As typical weaker systems are tasked with trying to play beyond their limits, they produce bad sound, in the form of distortion. We don't like distortion, so we say, "it's too loud!" What we're really judging is the system, not the SPL per se. Picture driving in a poorly-built vehicle at too high a velocity for the vehicle and the road. All the smoke, vibration, skidding, bad engine sounds, the out of control feeling, add up to a bad experience. An automobile that is more capable would yield a much better experience at the same speed. And a better road (theater room) would make it better still.

Why is this a big deal?

Most home systems cannot approach this level. As stated above, -15dBFS (15 decibels below reference level) is fairly easy to achieve. The relationship between watts and SPL is not linear. 3dB increase of SPL requires twice the watts. Twice the loudness is 10dB, and that's ten times the watts. Fortunately, even a few watts into an inefficient speaker will produce enough sound for casual TV watching, background music, or critical music listening in a quiet environment.


Unfortunately, the requirements are exponentially higher when you want to listen closer to reference level, where typical speakers will require hundreds or even thousands of watts! When the speakers and amps are not up to the task, we get reduced output and distortion.

Data

I'll be pasting the list of speakers and what data I can in a more limited format, but I'm maintaining the master as a Google Docs spreadsheet which has the most information.

Color Coding

I used conditional formatting to come up with color coding. Dark red = bad, oranges less bad, yellow almost good enough, greens are good, blues are better, and dark blues are superlative. Lots of subjective thinking here, as I realize that sensitivity is neither bad or good, but rather a design decision. However, it plays such a huge part in speakers' ability to output high spl with low distortion, that I'm willing to judge it. The colors have been "normalized" when I saw huge gaps in the colors or a cluster of a lot of numbers using the same color.

Fields / Columns
Manufacturer

Model

Type: Floor, Stand, Center, Surround

Orig Purpose: Indicates what the speaker was originally manufactured for. Monitor (studio or stage monitor, usually for near to midfield. Maybe I should break that up into near, midfield, and farfield monitors?), Home, Stage

Price Used (each): When the speaker has been discontinued.

Price New (each): I either take the manufacturer's MSRP, or find it on dealer websites and try to take an average, or at worst I have to dig through forum posts.

Active / Passive: Active speakers have built-in amps, or are intended to connect to rack-mounted amps with tailored DSP. Has implications for all the numbers, because I usually have to extrapolate the sensitivity, for which I use low frequency (amp, woofer, SPL, etc.). I need more guidance on how to treat these.

Sensitivity dB (anechoic): These numbers are given with different or no qualifiers by manufacturers. Anechoic, in-room, in-corner, two speakers, 1m, 2m, half-space, 1w, 4ohm 1w, 2.83v 4 ohm... Fortunately, pro speakers usually list the max peak SPL, so using that and their stated peak watt handling, I can extrapolate what the sensitivity is (this is required for active speakers) or whether they meant half space or full space. For instance, the Hsu HB-1 is 92dB half space, so I dropped it 3dB. Unfortunately, this isn't exact...I see some manf. specify the in-room sensitivity as 4dB higher than anechoic. Some manufacturers are anecdotedly known in forums, and tested in reviews, to be off on sensitivity by 3-4dB. For those known lines, I simply reduce the number by 3dB. But if people could come forward with more reviews on specific speakers reporting the tested sensitivity, I'll correct numbers.


For 4 ohm speakers with sensitivity given as dB @ 2.83v/1m, I have normalized for comparison to the 8ohm speaker by dropping sensitivity 3dB. Ideally, manufacturers give sensitivity as dB @ 1w/1m.

Watts to Reach 105dB 12 ft LP: Gives you an idea of what kind of power would be required for reference level peaks. This is "The number of watts you'll need to send the speaker to reach a 105dB peak with a listening position 12 feet away, in an anechoic room, using the anechoic sensitivity." So, three parameter assumptions: desired level of peaks, distance, and type of room. In the Calcs sheet I can change those numbers, and some day I'll figure out how to present this data and let YOU override those numbers.


When you see that Speaker X would need 1,000 watts to reach reference peak, you can judge whether you'd ever have that big of an amp.

% Watts Peak: This is the percent of the speaker's peak power handling that is required to reach the 105dB from 12 feet. It's one thing if Speaker X needs 1,000 watts, and you're even willing to provide that power. But it's all moot if the manufacturer states that the speaker can only handle 200 watts peak!

100 watts dB: The SPL you'll get from the speaker 12 feet away, when you feed it 100 watts. This is another number that educates, because 100 watts is such a typical number for receivers.


Program Watts: Usually between continuous and peak power handling. I don't even include continuous, because most of these speakers will handle 85dB continuous output just fine. Continuous is with a sine wave with a 3dB crest factor, so maybe it is representative of the worst compressed music out there. But generally Program is more representative of real material. Many pro speakers give this datum. JBL, Danley, etc. When they only give continuous and peak, I split the difference.

Program Watts dB (12ft): SPL you'll get from the speaker fed program watts @ 12 feet. Again, some day the 12 feet will be a distance variable that the public can change and tailor the numbers for their own needs.

Peak Watts: Usually 4x Continuous, 2x Program, so when not given, I extrapolated.


It's not the average output levels that most speakers struggle with; it's the peaks. The amp either clips on them, softly (not noticeable) or harshly. As FOH says, this is "insidious" when you don't realize it, but it makes the music / program less dynamic, less real, less scary, when you're missing those transient from plucked strings, piano notes, drum hits, or the gun shot. Or the speaker can't handle the peak watts required and distorts, bottoms out, or leaves the magnetic gap a big and doesn't give us the volume we should have (if just the woofer does this, then the sound gets more bright).


Some manufacturers test to give this number. This is difficult to test, as we're not talking about a continuous signal (which would be continuous power handling). The peak power handling is so much higher because the voice coil has time to cool between peaks. Sometimes the number means "this is where the speaker might be destroyed." Other times it means "this is where the distortion is unacceptable (whatever that means)." Others: "This is where this type of distortion reached 10%, with this type of signal," which is obviously a much better qualification of the number (this is rare, unfortunately).

Peak dB: The SPL you'll get when sending quick peaks to the speaker at the level of the Peak Watts. Lately this is how the list is sorted.

Scores: These are different scorings with different weights for sensitivity, price, power handling, etc.

Active Specs: For active speakers, which include amplifiers, or require specific outboard amps with DSP, the watts for each driver are listed: Low Frequency, Mids, High Frequency.

Freq -3dB: The -3dB point of the speaker, which is the frequency range. I used to list just the lower point, but then I noticed some pro cinema speakers rolled off a 16kHz. Sometimes this point is interpolated for speakers where only a -6dB or -2dB point is given in literature.

Distortion: I wish this was given more often, and I wish it was given at a higher output level stressing the speaker more. This column was added later, so I intend to return to many of the speakers' literature, or search for lab tests, and present distortion numbers. Soundstage has such measurements.

Ohms: Nominal impedance.

Dispersion Degrees: More applicable for horn speakers. The horizontal dispersion is given first. Generally one wants to limit dispersion to the floor and ceiling. Depending on application, you may want more horizontal dispersion (like for a center), or less horizontal (if you're trying to minimize side wall reflections).

LF (in): Number and size in inches of the low frequency drivers.

MF (in): Number and size in inches of the mid frequency drivers.

HF (in): Number and size in inches of the high frequency drivers.

Wave-guide: Short description of the wave guide (horn), e.g. "ellip CD" = Elliptical wave guide with a Compression Driver.

URL: Web page address of specs.

Notes / Misc: Other ocassional information.

Range of Speakers

Included are the common highly-touted reference level speakers, and pro-audio speakers, and also some that simply are often mentioned as great for theater.


Many speakers will not be horns. Many will be ugly. Some we find will never have been considered for home theater, and some of those may be new-found gems (hopefully!), while others will be found to be completely unsuitable for home theater. We may want to keep them in the list with explanation of why they're inappropriate. Some will be capable of reference level with outboard amps. Some will clearly not reach RL at 12 feet, but may be suitable for someone wanting -5db without distortion, for example.

How Calculated

Speaking of which, I started off using the SPL calculator [URL=http://http//myhometheater.homestead.com/splcalculator.html]here[/URL] and I'm calculating with one speaker, away from walls, at 12 feet.


Later, as the errors mounted in having to calculate each speaker manually, I incorporated formulas, such as =(10^((Calcs!B$3-(I25+(20*log(3.2808399/Calcs!B$2))))/10)).

A Work in Progress
  • I don't have all of the sampling of commonly suggested theater speakers yet. Sometimes I'm aware of a speaker, but I don't have data on its specs yet. Write in recommendations. Point me to reviews! Correct my mistakes!
  • While I'm listing the manufacturers' recommended input wattages, I'm unsure about how to translate different manufacturer's specs, such as continuous, program, and peak. Of course they're all inconsistent, even within the same make!
  • The types of attributes are in flux. I'd like to add others like Directivity Factor and Directivity Index, but I'm still learning on how to incorporate these.
  • Ideally this should become a database-driven web application, like Ricci's. In time I hope to trick co-workers into giving me some development time.


So this list is only a few months old. With help and suggestions and education it will get refined. I welcome lots of input!
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